Fish Oil and Omega-3 May Benefit Alcohol Abusers

Omega-3 fish oil might help protect against alcohol-related neurodamage and the risk of eventual dementia, according to a study. Many human studies have shown that long-term alcohol abuse causes brain damage and increases the risk of dementia. The new study found that in brain cells exposed to high levels of alcohol, a fish oil compound protected against inflammation and neuronal cell death.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Brain Damage From Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

 Brain Damage has been shown in cases of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.  Sounds like a little preaching to the choir.

 A new article in the July 16, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, discloses findings of brain injured versus non-brain injured individuals.

For the study, 44 people with a mild traumatic brain injury and nine people with a moderate traumatic brain injury were compared to 33 people with no brain injury. All of the participants took tests of their thinking and memory skills. At the same time, they had diffusion tensor imaging scans, a type of MRI scan that is more sensitive than traditional MRI for detecting damage to brain cells and helps map fiber tracts that connect brain regions. The people with brain injuries had their scans an average of six days after the injury. A year later, 23 of those with injuries had another scan and took the cognitive tests again.

Compared to the people with no brain injury, those with injuries had brain damage in brain white matter consisting of disruption to nerve axons, those parts of nerve cells that make up white matter and that allow brain cells to transmit messages to each other.

So goes the myth that "mild" traumatic brain injury has no lasting effects on its victim.

Brain Implants to Optimize Memory

The U.S. military is leading a program to develop brain implants to restore memory to veterans who have suffered brain injuries.  The Restoring Active Memory (RAM) program is a project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the branch of the U.S. Department of Defense charged with developing next-generation technologies for the military. The initiative aims to develop wireless, fully implantable "neuroprosthetics" for service members suffering from traumatic brain injury or illness.


More than 270,000 U.S. veterans have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) since 2000, and the condition affects about 1.7 million civilians in the United States each year, according to DARPA. TBI interferes with the ability to recall memories from before the injury, and also the capacity to form or retain new memories.

Currently, few treatments for TBI-related memory loss exist, but DARPA is trying to change that. Deep brain stimulation, the use of implanted electrodes to deliver electrical signals to specific parts of the brain, has already demonstrated success in treating Parkinson's disease and other chronic brain conditions. Building on these advances, DARPA is developing new neuroprosthetics to bridge the gap in an injured brain to restore memory function.

There are many different types of memory, but the RAM program will focus on a kind known as declarative memory — knowledge that can be consciously recalled, such as events, times or places.

For example, imagine you need to go to the store. To find it, you need to know where the store is located and what it's called. A person with a traumatic brain injury often has trouble remembering these basic facts.

The project is being funded by the government and will spill over into the general population as the technology is achieved.

As part of the RAM program, UCLA will receive up to $15 million, and the University of Pennsylvania will receive up to $22.5 million in funding, over a four-year period. In addition, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federal research facility located in Livermore, California, will receive up to $2.5 million. The funding will depend on whether the institutions meet a series of technical milestones, ranging from recording neural signals to developing the hardware for chronic implants.

Stay tuned for more.

Brain Cells Regenerate and Allow for Memory

The official understanding that brain cells do not regenerate has been longstanding.  Therefore, if you lose it, it stays lost.  During my time studying the brain and traumatic and acquired brain injury these many years, I came to appreciate the issue of "reserves" in the brain and the complexity of repeat trauma reducing reserves.

I came across an article in Scientific American, July 2014, entitled Add Neurons Subtract Anxiety. In it, the authors cite the discovery of brain cell regeneration to Joseph Altman in the 1960s.  Studies in the 1990s revealed that certain brain cells regenerate in two areas of the brain: smell and the hippocampus.

In fact these brain locals and fledgling cells may be involved...

In helping to record memories in a way that distinguishes them as unique, preventing them from blurring, one into the next.  This realization could lead to novel approaches to treating a variety of anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), because people who suffer from such conditions have trouble telling the difference between situations that merit fear and those that are innocuous.

High Blood Pressure,Traumatic Brain Injury, and the Brain

High Blood Pressure increases the chances of cardiac damage. But new findings reveal High Blood Pressure may also be damaging the brain. As we get older those chances increase. High blood pressure in middle age plays a critical role in whether blood pressure in old age may affect memory and thinking, research shows. The study found that the association of blood pressure in old age to brain measures depended on a history of blood pressure in middle age. Higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure were associated with increased risk of brain lesions and tiny brain bleeds. This was most noticeable in people without a history of high blood pressure in middle age.

Habits of Neuroscience

I was checking out Scientific American June issue, Good Habits Bad Habits. If you have never read an issue of Scientific American I recommend you do.  The publication is full of emerging ideas.  Such is the article on How Habits are Formed.

Researchers are working on how the brain converts new behavior into a routine. They are uncovering the neural mechanisms that underlie our rituals. Habits seem to stand out as clear cut actions, but neurologically, they fall along a continuum of human behavior.

Although habits fall along different parts of the behavior spectrum, they share certain core features. For instance, they are stubborn and hard to undo.  Do you ever experience driving on "auto-pilot?"  You make turns and stops at familiar places without really thinking about it?  Researchers have found clues suggesting that different brain circuits take the lead as deliberate actions become habitual. It is possible that our expanding knowledge could even help people at the severe end of the habit spectrum, providing clues for how to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette's syndrome, fear or post traumatic stress disorder.

As the article says, if you want to condition yourself to jog in the morning, then perhaps you should put out the running shoes the night before so you do not miss them when you wake up the next day. This visual cue could be especially effective if you reward yourself after the jog. Do this on enough mornings and your brain might develop the chunking pattern that you want. By learning more about how our brains establish and maintain routines, we hope we can figure out, say the researchers, how people can coax themselves out of bad habits and into ones they want.

Brain Injury Alliance

Gavin Atwood of the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado sent this to me.  Click the link to see more about the event. 

President Obama's Brain Initiative

The President is behind the new BRAIN Initiative.

The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is part of a new Presidential focus aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. Long desired by researchers seeking new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, this picture will fill major gaps in our current knowledge and provide unprecedented opportunities for exploring exactly how the brain enables the human body to record, process, utilize, store, and retrieve vast quantities of information, all at the speed of thought.

As part of the BRAIN Initiative, Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Massachusetts General Hospital are leading the effort to devise brain implants to help veterans overcome post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Roughly 2.8 million men and women have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s estimated that up to 20 percent of those individuals will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder upon returning home.

In light of this sobering statistic, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has embarked on a 5-year, $70 million project to develop electronic devices that can be implanted in brains to treat PTSD and other psychological problems faced by military personnel. The new devices would both monitor and stimulate specific neural circuits in order to train the brain to function correctly.

Costs of Crashes

The economic and societal harm from motor vehicle crashes amounted to a whopping $871 billion in a single year, according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The study examined the economic toll of car and truck crashes in 2010, when 32,999 people were killed, 3.9 million injured and 24 million vehicles damaged. Those deaths and injuries were similar to other recent years. Of the total price tag, $277 billion was attributed to economic costs -- nearly $900 for every person living in the U.S. that year. Harm from loss of life, pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries was pegged at $594 billion.

Feeling Dizzy?

Research shows that Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) helps pinpoint the part of the brain that makes us dizzy.  The brains of people who experience chronic dizziness and other symptoms after concussion show more white matter damage visible on MRI. The findings suggest that information provided by MRI can speed the onset of effective treatments for concussion patients.

Brain Injury Survey

The Craig Hospital Research Department is conducting an online study.

The link below will take you to a survey about advocacy. The survey is designed for people who have had a brain injury as well as for family members/close friends who help advocate for someone who has had a brain injury.

The survey is completely anonymous. We will have no way to link your responses to your email address. It will take about 15-20 minutes to complete.

Your participation will allow us to evaluate programs that empower people with the skills of self-advocacy after brain injury.

Thank you for making a difference in the lives of people with brain injury!

Concussion in Athletes Doubles...Or Does it?

You have to live under a rock to not know about how Traumatic Brain Injury is affecting sports and athletes.  Football, Boxing, anything involving getting hit in the head by another person or object are all part of the group.

Concussion rates in US high-school athletes more than doubled between 2005 and 2012, according to a new national study using data on nine team sports.

Researchers suspect the upward trend in reported concussions reflects increased awareness. That's right.  The concussions were always there. We have just become better at recognizing them.

 Overall, the rate increased from .23 to .51 concussions per 1,000 athlete exposures. An athlete exposure is defined as one athlete participating in one competition or practice.

Brain Injury Association of America Legislative Update June 2014

The Brain Injury Association of America notes the following legislative updates: Access to Inpatient Rehabilitation Therapy Act of 2014 Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Congressman Butterfield (D-NC) introduced H.R. 4755, "Access to Inpatient Rehabilitation Therapy Act of 2014'' on May 29, 2014.The bill allows Inpatient Rehab Facilities (IRFs) to count recreational therapy services toward satisfaction of the "three hour rule," giving physicians practicing in inpatient hospital rehabilitation settings greater flexibility to prescribe and provide the mix of therapies in the IRF setting that best meets each patient's needs, including individuals with brain injuries. BIAA played a major role in tailoring this legislation to better improve the care individuals with brain injury receive at IRFs. The bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. Please call your Representative and ask him or her to co-sponsor HR 4755 today! To find your Representatives contact information click here. Enter your zip code in the upper right hand corner and click "GO". This will take you to your Representatives contact information. Disability Advocates Call for Senate Action on Treaty Following Supreme Court Ruling in Bond Case On Monday, June 2, the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Bond v. United States. The unanimous judgment supports what disability advocates and legal scholars had long contended: that the Bond case is not an obstacle to ratifying the Disability Treaty. The coalition of over 800 disability, veteran, and faith organizations working in support of the Treaty today call on the Senate to proceed promptly to ratification of the Disability Treaty. Opponents of the Disability Treaty have claimed that the Senate should not take up ratification until the Supreme Court had announced a decision in the Bond case. "The Supreme Court has spoken. Bond is no impediment to ratification of the Disability Treaty, and the Chief Justice has given the Senate a clear blueprint on how to ratify a treaty while preserving existing states' rights," said Marca Bristo, President of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities. "It's now time to restore American leadership on disability rights by moving forward immediately with ratification of the Disability Treaty. One billion people worldwide with disabilities have waited long enough." The Bond case involved a challenge to a federal statute implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was enacted after that Convention was ratified. However, the disability treaty is modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed by Congress long before the Disability Treaty was even ratified, and no new legislation is necessary for the US to comply with the treaty. This was confirmed in a declaration the Senate Foreign Relations Committee inserted into its proposed resolution of advice and consent in 2012, which states, "The Senate declares that, in view of the reservations to be included in the instrument of ratification, current United States law fulfills or exceeds the obligations of the Convention for the United States of America." In a November 2013 hearing on the disability treaty in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former White House Counsel Boyden Gray, testified that maintain the Federal-State balance could be addressed through appropriate Senate reservations. Also conservative international law scholars, Timothy Meyer of the University of Georgia and Curtis A. Bradley of Duke Law School agreed that appropriate reservations, understandings and declarations (RUDs) to the Treaty could achieve this goal. Such RUDs have been adopted for treaties ratified by Presidents of both parties throughout history and have never been challenged. The Supreme Court's Bond opinion highlights that when Congress is silent regarding the Federal - State balance, Federal Courts will resolve any ambiguities by assuming that the statute does not intrude upon traditional state jurisdiction - including a statute that implements a treaty. For the CRPD, the Senate will explicitly enact a reservation that maintains the Federal-State balance, which will reinforce this principle. It is obvious from today's decision that such a reservation will have the binding force of law and will be upheld by the Courts. The Senate can take this Supreme Court decision, and confidently draft Reservations that will uphold (as the Court put it) the "basic principles of federalism embodied in the Constitution." Call your Senators today to say it is time to pass the disability treaty! To find the contact information for your Senators click here. In the upper right hand corner click on the drop box function under "Find Your Senators" and click "GO". This will take you to your Senators contact information. To learn more about the disability treaty click here.

Epilepsy Caused by Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury is a risk factor for epilepsy, though the relationship is not understood. A new study in mice, published in Cerebral Cortex, identifies increased levels of a specific neurotransmitter as a contributing factor connecting traumatic brain injury (TBI) to post-traumatic epilepsy. The findings suggest that damage to brain cells called interneurons disrupts neurotransmitter levels and plays a role in the development of epilepsy after a traumatic brain injury.

Gambling Addiction and the Brain

Since I am from Las Vegas, new gambling addiction research is interesting.

Researchers from Cambridge University believe hyperactivity in the brain's insula could lead to problem gambling; future treatments could focus on reducing this hyperactivity. Gambling is a widespread activity: 73% of people in the UK report some gambling involvement in the past year and around 50% play games other than the National Lottery. For a small proportion of players (around 1-5%), their gambling becomes excessive, resulting in features seen in addiction. Problem gambling is associated with both debt and family difficulties as well as other mental health problems like depression.

During gambling games, people often misperceive their chances of winning due to a number of errors of thinking called cognitive distortions. For example, 'near-misses' seem to encourage further play, even though they are no different from any other loss. In a random sequence like tossing a coin, a run of one event (heads) makes people think the other outcome (tails) is due next; this is known as the 'gambler's fallacy'.

There is increasing evidence that problem gamblers are particularly prone to these erroneous beliefs. In this study, the researchers examined the neurological basis of these beliefs in patients with injuries to different parts of the brain.